While the engineers are still tuning, expectations are that the 500 badge won't be that boastful. Today's spec sheet lists "450-plus" hp with 450 lb-ft of torque and 8.5 psi of boost (versus the 550-hp Ford GT's 12.0 psi). Don't be surprised if market conditions nudge the final figure upward. Backing up the blown motor is a wide-ratio Tremec T-56 transmission with six forward gears-two of which are overdrive ratios. (Standard and GT Mustangs currently get by with five-speed manual transmissions.)
Exterior alterations are more than two-tone frosting on the GT500's fortieth birthday cake. Chief designer Doug Gaffka re-beveled the grille opening, lowered the driving lights, and sent the horsey badge galloping. New twin apertures, filled with black diamond mesh and a side snake, mouth the appropriate "Outta the way, sucker!" visual statement. Two slots in the hood exhaust some of the air rammed through the intercooler, radiator, and A/C condenser heat exchangers. A discreet black splitter at the lower edge of the front fascia helps cancel high-speed lift. The black-skirt theme continues down the sides of the car and across the tail in a simulated diffuser panel. While the side and rear trim are nonfunctional, the requisite trunk-lid spoiler does cancel some of the aerodynamic lift at the rear. All four views of the exterior show a hissing snake, and the Shelby name is writ conspicuously across the trailing edge of the trunk lid in racetrack typeface. SVT identification is relegated to the wheel-center caps.
Patterned after the Ford GT's forged-aluminum wheels, the cast rims that adorn the GT500 concept are a meaty 9.5 inches wide. Goodyear Eagle F1 rubber in a 255/40YR-19 size plants a tread approximately 0.4 inch wider than the standard Mustang's seventeen-inch four-season radials. Expect eighteens on the '07, with nineteens optional. Neither will be enough; count on billowing white smoke trailing the GT500's every move.
When that cloud clears, there's a nice view of the upgraded braking equipment through the machined wheel spokes. Black-painted Brembo calipers-with four pistons in front, two in back-hug cross-drilled and radially vented brake rotors. The gain in rotor diameter is a substantial 1.6 inches in front (to 14 inches) and 1.5 inches in back (to 13 inches). Suspension changes, which currently are under development, likely will be limited to recalibrated springs and dampers, though preliminary specifications also list a stiffer rear antiroll bar. While we're skeptical about this much power delivered via a live rear axle, a race-prepped 2005 Mustang did win its Grand-Am Cup class at Daytona in February. Electronic traction control will continue (with a disabling switch), but there are no plans to add stability assistance.
The show car's interior theme can be summed up in one word: leather. The standard Mustang's molded-plastic surfaces are swathed by an uninterrupted layer of stitched black hide. It trims the door panels, steering wheel, shifter, parking-brake handle, dash top, and console. The seat center panels are red perforated leather in the classic tuck-and-roll motif. A matte-aluminum finish for the shift knob, steering-wheel spokes, instrument rings, and vent registers replaces the standard Mustang's blindingly bright metal decor. Metal trim plates running across the middle of the dash are subdued with a black-dot pattern, while the gauge faces-which Ford calls titanium-look pitch black to us. The 7000-rpm tachometer was moved from the left to the right tube to enhance its visibility.
Predicting how much of this hide and horsepower will make the leap to production is a fool's game right now. However, this much we can say: With the weight gain held to 200 pounds and the power curve clearing the 470-hp hurdle, the GT500 could arrive with a Corvette-trumping power-to-weight ratio. Carroll Shelby wouldn't have it any other way.